Yesterday, we laid out the reasons why what you wear to a job interview is very important.We also debunked a common myth: a formal business suit is not always the right outfit for an interview. It often is, and if you really have nothing else to go on it’s probably your safest default, but be aware that overdressing can cost you a job just as easily as underdressing. A guy who shows up to interview for an hourly wage job at a garage in a suit and tie doesn’t look like someone who understands the culture of that workplace or who’s going to stick around for long — he’s clearly got his mind on bigger and better positions.
Below we walk you through not only the overarching rule to keep in mind when deciding what to wear for a job interview, but also the five categories of dress codes to know, the specific clothes to wear for each code, and even grooming tips to take you up a notch.
The “One Step Higher” Rule
Your best rule for interview clothing is this: dress one significant level of formality higher than you would for a day on the job.
In shorthand, that’s the “One Step Higher” rule. It means that if on a normal day you’d be wearing khakis and a dress shirt but no tie, you should show up at the interview in slacks, a blazer, and a shirt with a tie, but not a suit. If you’d be wearing jeans and a polo at the job, wear khakis and a tie but no jacket. And so on.
All well and good, you say, but at an interview you haven’t yet worked a day at the company. You probably haven’t seen the employee handbook, HR manual, dress code, or wherever else they lay out clothing standards, either. So how do you know what the base level of formality is, and therefore how to dress one step higher than it?
A smart interviewee will take the time to figure out a company’s dress standards before going to the interview. Depending on your connections, you can do this in one of three ways: